Dong Quai Health Benefits: tonic for women

Dong Quai has many names

Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis, is also known under many other names in its native areas, including can qui, dangdanggui, dang gui, dong quai, duong qui handanggui, hashyshat almalak, kara toki, langdu danggui, min-gui, tang-kuei, and tangkuei tân qui, and in the West as female ginseng or Chinese angelica. It is closely related to angelicaparsley, celery, carrots, and poison hemlock.

Description

It is a fairly hardy perennial (tolerating minimum temperatures of -5º C) which is found at higher altitudes in China, Japan and Korea. It prefers moist soil and will not grow in full shade, but otherwise is not fussy about location. The part used medicinally is the root, so although it is self-fertile, as it is propagated from seed, it is necessary to grow more plants than you need in any season, so that you can keep it going while the smaller seedlings produce a good sized root, which takes 3 years.

Aesthetically speaking, it is a fragrant plant with smooth purplish stems reaching a height of around 1m (39″), a spread of 70cm (16″) and typical Umbellifer umbrels of 5-petalled flowers in early Fall, followed by winged fruits in late Summer. The roots are yellow brown and branched, about 15-25cm (6-10″) long when mature.

Cultivation and harvest

If you plan to grow your own dong quai for use on a regular basis, you need to sow enough for one year, then the same the following year and the year after that. In the third year, you can harvest the first sowing, replacing them with new seedlings, and so on. To be honest, you may prefer to buy ready prepared dong quai in the form of capsules or tincture. You can also buy dried roots in a Chinese grocers.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, making sure it has light for germination. Prick out into pots and grow on for the first Winter in the frame, then plant out in their permanent position in the Spring. You can also sow in its final position when the seed is ripe if you don’t have a cold frame.

Dig up whole 3-year-old plants in Fall and discard the tops. Clean and cut up the roots and dry in trays away from direct sunlight but with good air flow, checking and turning regularly until thoroughly dried, then transfer into an air tight container and label.

Edible uses

It is used as an ingredient in a tonic soup for women, and has also been used to flavour liqueurs and confectionery.

Medicinal uses

Dong quai roots contain many active constituents including terpenes, phenylpropanoids, benzenoids and coumarins. A major constituent is ligustilide, which can be up to 5% of the total.

Dong quai is one of the most popular herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and has been used for thousands of years to strengthen heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney and as a tonic for the blood and circulation. It is known as the female ginseng and is used in a similar way and for similar purposes as ginseng in men. Regular ginseng is sometimes prescribed for women for various purposes, and similarly dong quai is sometimes prescribed for men.

In the West, dong quai is mainly used to balance hormone levels and is particularly helpful because it is antispasmodic so it reduces cramps. It’s also useful for PMS, menopause, reducing anxiety and mood swings. It can be used in both sexes to enhance fertility, as a blood tonic and to boost the immune system. Chinese women often use it as a daily tonic in the same way as ginseng is used by men.

Dosage recommendations vary, but tend to be in the range of 500-1500mg three times a day.

Contra-indications and warnings

Not suitable for children, or for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women should also not use dong quai if they have breast cancer or any other oestrogen-dependent cancer, endometriosis or fibroids. Men shouldn’t use it if they have prostate cancer. Nobody should use it if they have an acute viral infection, chronic diarrhea, protein S deficiency, hemorrhagic disease, abdominal bloating, low blood pressure or if they are taking warfarin or other blood thinners including fish oils and other omega-3 supplements, Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), ginseng (Panax ginseng), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

May increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Aromatherapy

Dong quai essential oil is used with an appropriate carrier oil for the same purposes outlined in this article. Do not swallow dong quai essential oil because it contains cancer-causing substances.

Final Notes

You may prefer to grow this, if at all, as a decorative plant rather than going to the trouble of processing your own dong quai. However, if you do decide to grow it for medicinal use, it’s important to ensure that you use organic methods to avoid noxious chemicals getting mixed up with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


Geranium essential oil, benefits and uses

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

As with all essential oils, geranium oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Geranium essential oil is offered in two types. Rose geranium oil (which you will often find called just geranium essential oil), Pelargonium graveolens, is the one most easily sourced, and also the most expensive. You may also find a product called geranium essential oil which is actually the essential oil of the apple geranium, Pelargonium odoratissimum. This is cheaper, but also does not have all the same properties.

Both types are extracted from the leaves and stalks of the appropriate plant by steam distillation, and range in color from colorless through to a light green. They are quite thin oils, so care must be taken when using them not to add too much to your carrier oil or other base by accident.

Cautions: Do not use either type of geranium essential oil during pregnancy or on sensitive skin. Not suitable for use by diabetics or anyone else who suffers from hypoglycemia. Not suitable for use on children under 1 year old. Avoid use when studying or taking exams, as it may lower concentration.

As already mentioned, the two types have different properties.

Rose geranium essential oil is often used for skin care both for dry and oily skins; it’s astringent, so it balances sebum production while simultaneously soothing and softening the skin, and is helpful for treating acne, eczema and psoriasis. Because of its antiseptic and cytophylactic (promotes healing) properties, it’s also useful for cuts, burns and external ulcers and its antifungal qualities make it an excellent topical treatment for candida (thrush) and other fungal conditions. It’s also styptic – which means it helps to stop bleeding.

Rose geranium oil’s balancing properties aren’t just restricted to the skin. It also helps to balance the mind, emotions and hormonal system. Of course, though conventional medicine tends to treat these as entirely separate, in fact they are quite closely interlinked. We all know how our emotions seem to affect everything, and PMS (a hormonal condition) is well known to cause severe dysfunction both of mental and emotional health. It’s no surprise, then, that this oil works to relax, reduce anxiety/depression and stress, stabilize the emotions and restore mental balance. As a hormonal regulator, it is useful for treating menopausal problems, menorrhagia (heavy periods) and PMS.

And that’s not all. Rose geranium oil is also an adrenal stimulant, deodorant, diuretic (useful in treating edema), a lymphatic stimulant, and a good general tonic and detoxing agent. It can be used to treat gallstones and jaundice (only after consultation with your regular physician) and cellulite. Finally, it is a lice (cootie) repellent, mosquito repellent, general insect repellent and anti-parasitic.

Phew.

I offer rose geranium essential oil and organic rose geranium essential oil in my online shop as well as a range of other products derived from them.

Apple geranium essential oil has many, but not all, of the same properties (and a few extra ones of its own): acne, adrenal stimulant, anxiety, astringent, improves circulation, cytophylactic (promotes healing), diuretic, deodorant, dry skin, eczema, edema, hemorrhoids, hormone regulator, lice repellent, lymphatic stimulant, menopause, mental balance, mosquito repellent, neuralgia, oily skin, PMS, skin care, stress, styptic (stops bleeding), tonic, ulcers, vermifuge (anti-parasitic), vulnerary (treats cuts and wounds).

For most of these conditions, use geranium oil diluted in the usual way either directly on the area to be treated or for massage, or add 4-5 drops to your bath. For emotional and mental difficulties, it can also be used in an oil diffuser.


Frankincense essential oil, benefits and uses: oil with a sacred pedigree

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Frankincense oil has an attractive scent I always associate with High Anglican churches, which I attended as a child. Frankincense is used in Roman Catholic and other “high” churches, and apparently in Lutheran ones as well. It was also used in ancient Judaism alongside the sacrifices in the Temple. Ancient Egyptians, by contrast, used it for cosmetics, perfumes, and rejuvenating face masks.

Well known in Christian circles as one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus by the three wise men along with gold and myrrh, frankincense is a resin which is collected from several different trees in the Boswellia genus (mainly B. sacra) several times a year. The trunk of the trees is slashed, the sap oozes out and congeals and is then collected.

Unfortunately, this has become unsustainable in recent years. Trees which are used for resin collection produce seed which has only 16% viability, in comparison with trees left alone, which have 80% or more viable seeds.

Frankincense is distantly related to Elemi.

As with all essential oils, frankincense oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Frankincense essential oil is made by steam distillation from the resin. It’s also sometimes called olibanum oil. It is a yellow or greenish liquid with a rich, balsamic scent and a fresh top note.

Frankincense oil should not be used during pregnancy (except during labor) or for children under 6 years of age. As with all essential oils, ensure that the oil you buy is pure frankincense oil, and not wholly or partly fake, or adulterated with chemicals. Even if they smell similar, oils which are not 100% pure essential oil will not have the same therapeutic effects, and may be dangerous when used in medicinal amounts.

Please note that in spite of widespread disinformation to the contrary, Frankincense essential oil does not cure cancer, despite a single anecdotal report of a skin cancer cure. The claim is based on the presence of boswellic acid in frankincense gum resin. However, it is not present in the essential oil, and the tumour-fighting benefits of boswellic acid are therefore not available to anyone using frankincense essential oil. Source

Frankincense is traditionally associated with spirituality. Used in an oil burner or diffuser, frankincense oil is an aid to meditation, calms anxiety of the mind, helps reduce the tendency to live in the past and encourages grounding and a feeling of inner peace. On the physical side, it is also useful for respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, coughs and colds, laryngitis and shortness of breath.

In a blend of 5 drops to 10ml carrier oil, frankincense oil is a good general tonic and helpful for respiratory conditions, rheumatism, poor circulation, exhaustion, nightmares, heavy periods, delayed periods or the menopause. You could also add a few drops of oil (up to 5) to the bath for the same purposes. On top of all that, it’s great for dry and mature skin, scars, wounds and any disfiguring skin problems including wrinkles. The Egyptians knew a thing or two about beauty!Continuing on the beauty front, adding a few drops of frankincense to a base cream or lotion makes a great skin tonic which will rejuvenate, reduce oiliness, gradually reduce wrinkles, stretch marks and old scars and help with healing of general skin problems such as sores.

You can also use a few drops of frankincense in the water used to clean cuts as an antiseptic and to help prevent scarring, or to make a compress for cracked skin and bed sores. A compress is a clean bandage which is soaked in liquid (in this case warm), wrung out and applied to the area to be treated.

I offer pure frankincense essential oil and dilute frankincense essential oil in my online shop.


The three chamomile essential oils, benefits and uses

All chamomiles look very similar to each other

All chamomiles look very similar to each other

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Chamomile essential oils come in three distinct types. German chamomile and Roman chamomile are those generally used in aromatherapy.

Maroc or Moroccan chamomile is also available, but this is said not to be a “true chamomile”, and has completely different properties, though they are all members of the same botanical family. If you are starting out in aromatherapy, you should probably buy either the German or Roman type.

Confusingly, both Moroccan and German chamomile are sometimes called wild chamomile, so as with remedial herbs, it’s best to check the latin name in this case and also where the label just says “chamomile”.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

So here’s a breakdown of the three types and their properties:

German chamomile essential oil is extracted from the flowers of Matricaria recutita (previously called Matricaria chamomilla or Chamomilla recutita). Most of the plants cultivated for extraction are grown in Hungary and eastern Europe, rather than in Germany.

It can be used for acne, allergies, arthritis, boils, burns, chilblains, dermatitis, earache, eczema, inflammation, inflammatory diseases, insomnia, menstrual problems, migraine, muscle pain, nervous tension, psoriasis, sprains, toothache and small wounds.

I offer German chamomile essential oil in my online shop.

Roman chamomile essential oil is an extract from the flowers of Chamaemelum nobile (previously called Anthemis nobilis). The plant can be found growing wild across Europe and North America, although it is native to southern and western Europe.

It is used for all the same purposes as German chamomile.

I offer Roman chamomile essential oil, Roman chamomile 5% essential oil and organic Roman chamomile essential oil in my online shop.

Moroccan chamomile essential oil is extracted from the flowering tops of Ormenis multicaulis (sometimes called Ormenis mixta or Anthemis mixta). Plants used for extraction mainly come from north west Africa and southern Spain.

It is used for amenorrhea (no periods), colic, colitis, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), headache, insomnia, irritability, liver congestion, menopause, migraine, sensitive skin, spleen congestion and sunburn.

Moroccan chamomile essential oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 13 years of age, or by anyone trying for a baby.

As you can see, it’s not really worth buying both the German and Roman types, though you could add Moroccan chamomile essential oil if you wish to treat the conditions it is used for (if you can find a reliable source).